Should I stay or should I go - now
March 14, 2013 5:09 AM   Subscribe

Help me with this please. I have a very comfortable job in a large company as the senior software developer leading a small team of developers. I have almost 20 years’ experience as a developer, architect, analyst company director, and have a pretty good commercial brain too. I don’t *necessarily* want to be a software developer – my passion is problem solving and architecture. I accepted this job four years ago so I could finish college, and I have one unit left, 10 weeks and I have a master’s degree. I love the environment, my colleagues, and though the work isn’t challenging in any way, but it’s an industry I'm passionate about. tldr; Should I quit? I want to quit. How can I channel my anger over this poorly implemented organizational change?

The business has often called on me to act as a consultant, evaluate software purchases, elicit requirements and advise what’s available to them to solve problems. I’ve saved them from making some disastrous software purchases, and innovated and built systems that have saved them millions of dollars, suggested advertising copy that now adorns the city.

We have a new CEO, he used to be the COO and I have a really good relationship with him. Part of the restructure has been the introduction of Requisite Organization theory into the organization – I’m pretty skeptical about management theory, but a lot of this is just common sense and is harmless enough.

A facet of the change has been to stratify the organization into levels of job complexity. Level 5 is defining strategy – the CEO; Level 4, directing strategy, the various directors, Level 3 is managing strategy, Level 2 is implementing under direction and working within defined processes, and Level 1 is “following predetermined procedures”.

My boss called me into his office and told me I’m Level 2, “receiving direction and directing the team”. I can no longer be called upon to consult, and am no longer able to attend strategy meetings and architecture reviews. Only Level 3 and above can direct strategy. I told my boss (who is a vast gutless twit btw) that this was patently stupid, he agreed (he always agrees) and told me that I’m a “high level two” – to which I asked what the definition for a high level two is – to which he proceeded to tell me how valuable I am yada yada. I also asked him what the “defined processes” were, and he told me they were “yet to be defined”.

So now – Level 3s are getting taken out to lunches, are given nice “thank you” trinkets and all of a sudden are being treated very differently (they were merely part of the team). I can’t put into words how fucking angry I am about this – as the change was implemented my boss fucked off overseas on 4 weeks holiday so no one in our department was really aware of what was happening until it happened. The stratification has been applied throughout the org with no regard for skills or experience. My reports – the developers have been relegated to Level 1 – which is utterly fucking ludicrous as they are a really dedicated and talented team – who are now wanting to quit as they also are not allowed to attend meetings with stakeholders, and must receive all instruction from me, who in turn must receive instructions from the level 3 - project managers who have very little and no ICT experience - one says “Pacific” when he means “specific” and that climate change is due to the sun getting bigger.

I love this job, I love the company, but I’m so angry – I don’t know who to talk to about this. A structure like this just makes no sense in ICT (most of the company is factory floor). My boss should know that – but he’s too gutless to say anything. Would you leave? I feel really insulted, neglected. Should I talk to the CEO, or will I just be the dreaded “change resistor”.
posted by the noob to Work & Money (15 answers total)
I love this job, I love the company, but I’m so angry – I don’t know who to talk to about this. A structure like this just makes no sense in ICT (most of the company is factory floor). My boss should know that – but he’s too gutless to say anything. Would you leave? I feel really insulted, neglected. Should I talk to the CEO, or will I just be the dreaded “change resistor”.

With 20 years experience and as a senior developer, surely there are other opportunities out there. Might be time to dust off the resume and see what the market can bear you - with an offer from another company, you may be able to leverage a move to level 3 and if not, this doesn't sound like an environment I'd want to spend more than 10 minutes in (levels dictate whether or not you can perform things you're good and experienced at? Geez.)

10 weeks is how long it might take you to get a job - just enough to get your degree.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:15 AM on March 14, 2013

Restructures come and go, but good money + good environment + an industry you love is hard to come by.

They will quickly learn how their new structure doesn't work, and adjust. But there IS always something positive that comes from these shakeups. You just have to find it.

I would also suggest not looking at the levels as grades or titles. They sound simply like shorthand for chain of command structures. Things get messy when an organization is too mesh-like.
posted by gjc at 5:17 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Would you leave?

In every career are times when a little voice will tell you "it's time to move on." It seems to me that you hear the voice and you're coming here to find reasons to ignore it.
posted by three blind mice at 5:18 AM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

It seems that these levels of strategy were poorly defined and the new initiative wasn't fully baked before it was implemented.

Of course I'd leave if I didn't feel appreciated AND I had a place to jump to. There's no immediate need to jump until you do. Until then, grin and bear it...and maybe get the ear of the CEO you have a good relationship with and tell him what you think about the new changes and what it's doing for morale.
posted by inturnaround at 5:32 AM on March 14, 2013

I left a very comfortable job, with great money and mostly great people because they fucked with me in exactly the same way you're being fucked.

My thought is, you can beat me up, but when you steal my lunch money, that's when I bail.

I left and there were times when I was miserable and looked back and thought I had made a HUGE mistake. After a bit of a windy path through the industry, I ended up back at the Phone Company (in another state) and enjoyed the fuck out of it until I was in that massive layoff following being eaten by the Death Star (thank you separation package.)

From where I sit now, I think that if I had it to do over again, I'd do the same thing.

When you are angry, you're consumed by it and it eats at you.

So finish up your degree and start sending out your resume. It's the perfect time to do so. You may find that the challenges, money and recognition you are seeking are awaiting you at a different place.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on March 14, 2013

I feel really insulted, neglected. Should I talk to the CEO, or will I just be the dreaded “change resistor”.

If you do talk to the CEO, don't go in there talking about how insulted and neglected and angry you feel. Talk to him about how the new structure impedes efficiencies and creativity from a workgroup whose efficiency and creative thinking is important to the bottom line.

I’ve saved them from making some disastrous software purchases, and innovated and built systems that have saved them millions of dollars, suggested advertising copy that now adorns the city.

That's just part of the job. It doesn't make you a rockstar. I'm sorry. My copy is all over my town too, but the fact that I can save the company money by comparing vendors while writing engaging copy doesn't make me a level three. It makes me someone who can take a project and run with it ... a damn good level two.

You said "the work isn't challenging in any way" so you're comfortable. Your execs probably see that too. You're comfortable doing what you do, and you do it well. It's not personal to recognize that. You don't have to like it, and you can certainly leave, but your post sounds like you're just personally offended at not being in the in-group who's getting lunches and trinkets. Are the changes good or not? The answer comes down not to how you feel about them but rather to what they mean for your team's ability to meet their goals and benefit the company.
posted by headnsouth at 6:07 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

As one who left a job I loved, in an industry and company that I loved, because of a twit of a manager, I regret not reaching out across the organization to individuals who hated to see me leave.

I saw several of these highly placed folks in the coming months (industry conferences) and they to a person all told me 'you should have talked with me', clearly indicating that something could have been done to change things.

To top it off, the twit manager (myself and another valued colleague resigned the same week, unbeknownst to each other) was 'reassigned' about two months after all this went down.

I found another job I loved in the same industry, so it all turned out fine. But when I look back, and wonder 'what if?', it comes back to the fact that I didn't involve other folks who really cared for me and wanted to help - if they were given the opportunity.

Restructuring comes and goes - it is just a matter of time before HIPPO (highest paid person's opinion) will see the obvious and change course. And lots of collateral damage inbetween - my organization just made some changes that will be seen in the next 3-6 months, there are several very good people who are leaving already.

If I were you I'd channel all the anger and frustration (and believe me, I can easily imagine it given your situation) into looking high up and across your organization - not only the CEO, but others who are "Level 4's" or perhaps "high Level 3's" who may be able to be powerful allies when the chickens come home to roost.

Of course Plan B should be in full-force as well - have an offer lined up and ready to go, should you lose your patience with waiting the craziness out. You'd be well-positioned either way.
posted by scooterdog at 6:28 AM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're about to have a Master's Degree. Clearly this is a time that you would be looking to move into a position with more responsibility and better pay regardless of any re-orgs.

Why not go to your boss or CEO if you have a sufficiently close relationship and remind them that you are about to have a Master's and see if there are any more senior positions opening up as you are interested in seeking out a level of responsibility commensurate with experience and degree.

If you are recognized as too valuable to lose, they will make something work. Of course, if you don't think you are recognized as such it might be better to keep your head down and start looking elsewhere so that you have an offer in hand (and hopefully your degree) before making any moves.
posted by rocketpup at 6:50 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are you really telling me that a software developer with 20 years experience and a solid relationship with the CEO is incapable of finding an appropriately vicious and underhanded way to use four weeks of pointy-hair's absence to render pointy-hair's politicial position completely untenable before his return?

You have teeth.

posted by flabdablet at 7:10 AM on March 14, 2013

pointy-hair's politicial position

I think it's the CEO's new policy. I would talk to him, once, and tell him as a friendly colleague/report that while you know change is always resisted, you did want him to be aware that at least presently the change is negatively impacting efficiency and group morale at levels 1 and 2. There may also be an opening in this conversation to push for your own promotion to level 3, but I'd make sure I spoke about my own reports' issues as well.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:15 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

To somebody who teaches organizational design, this whole plan sounds like a truly awful idea. I'm so sorry you're experiencing this (and that somebody probably paid a consultant to come up with this hare-brained scheme).

Joining the consensus opinion above, now is the time to go out looking for a job. You're actually in a great position to do so. When people ask why you want a new job, you explain how you love the company, love the work, etc., but they did an organizational redesign that severely narrowed the scope of your job, hurt your team's morale, and made it much harder to do the job that you've been doing for years. It's exactly wnat recruiters want to hear. My bet: you'll be hired with a 30% bump in salary within two months.

But what if you don't want to leave? If you want to stay at the company, I would NEVER tell the CEO or other upper management that the re-org isn't good. All they'll hear is that you don't understand corporate strategy and are definitely level 2 material (remember: everybody thinks their own ideas are brilliant). What you can do, however, is ask them what you can do to become a level 4 or whatever. Identify clear goals, work toward them, and move up this silly hierarchy. You may be underplaced, but the way to fix that is through negotiation and collective goal-setting, not criticism and talking about the good old days.
posted by eisenkr at 8:13 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Reorganizations like this are the opportunities. In a lot of environments, something like this happens every couple of years. It isn't even usually relevant what the "new, better way" exactly is. It's the change that matters; it's a way of filtering out the dead wood and promoting the good people outside of the usual seniority/longevity process. There's usually no "stay the same job-level as before" option.

Savvy political operators will find a way to be better off in the new structure than they were in the old one. People they wish would just go away find themselves worse off than before. There's some collateral damage of people who are good, but not good at these kind of games. In that case, usually a good boss will make sure their people get through ok.

It sounds like your boss kind of sucks, both on the giving people a heads up that the political game is on in the first place, and in taking care of you. Or, you're one of the people they aren't crazy about, but let's assume that's not the case.

When they implemented the NSPS system here, the levels didn't exactly match, so some people ended up getting pay raises for their new classification. Guess what, when NSPS went away, the levels didn't exactly match again, so some people ended up getting... pay raises, ending up higher than they started, without changing a thing about what they really did. Other people didn't fare so well. Which sounds unfair, and on a small scale, it is. But big picture, there were few people who made out well that you wouldn't think, "well, good for them. They deserve it." (and similarly, most of the people who got screwed kind of had it coming to them in the karma sense.)

So you're a bit behind, but what you want to do is be schmoozing with the directors to let them know that you want to be and already consider yourself a "level 3" person, they probably do too if they thought about it, and what do I have to do to get classified as level 3? Because if they don't have any room at your skill level, maybe another company would.

Your industry may vary, but moving up a half-step every periodic "reorganization" when jobs get redefined is the real way people get ahead in many places, and if you're not moving up, you're moving down. If your half or whole step up can't be in this company, then it may be time to make it be to a different one.
posted by ctmf at 9:46 AM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Make sure you have a good answer for when they ask YOU to write the "defined processes" that you are supposed to be following. If you are looking for other jobs and on your way out, then refuse to do that since it's level 3 work. If you decide to play within the system and try to move up, be sure to point out how level 3 that task would be and how you are ready to be reclassified.
posted by CathyG at 12:49 PM on March 14, 2013

Pony request - "Mark all as best answer" button

Thanks everyone. really helpful
posted by the noob at 2:44 AM on March 15, 2013

To somebody who teaches organizational design, this whole plan sounds like a truly awful idea

Wait until you see what the smartest guys in the room have planned for next year. It'll be rank and yank, just you watch.
posted by flabdablet at 9:07 AM on March 15, 2013

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